MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s been quite the year for Minnehaha Academy basketball. A year ago, they were rallying together overcoming the loss of their school.
This year, they’re having a statement-making season in front of one of the top basketball schools in the country. They beat Sierra Canyon in front of thousands at Target Center. Now the team is getting national attention from colleges and even the NBA.
During practice time at Minnehaha, Lance Johnson is in charge. He’s seen much over the past few years, but nothing like this.
“It’s been a circus, and there’s been mostly good in the circus, but again there’s times when you want to get back to the old routine of practices without interruptions,” Johnson said.
On many days, it includes a stop from a high profile college coach, which helps the pace.
“To me, it’s been an honor. It’s been fun to have the coaches here. It just so happens every time we have one of those coaches show up at practice our boys practice a lot harder,” Johnson said.
This is a team that’s seen a lot, including the loss of two lives in the explosion that shocked the entire student body. They learned and they played through it all without a home gym.
And this year they experienced something on the opposite side of the spectrum, playing a basketball game at Target Center, where the word got out, people showed up, and kept showing up. They put on a show, winning and making a statement for all Minnesota.
“It was amazing. The day before, there was supposed to be 10,000 people attending that game, and we were excited about that,” Johnson said. “After the game it was 17,300 or something, and to me it was just like this is surreal.”
If there is a focal point to the team, it’s Mr. Football — point guard Jalen Suggs already won that award for his stint as a quarterback and safety, probably the last time he’ll play.
“To see what the basketball community is like in Minnesota, for the rest of the country to see, it was great. It showed the rest of the country that we can play and we’ve got a lot of good players here,” point guard Jalen Suggs said. “Football is something I cherish so much, something that’s been there for me since I was 4, 5 years old. So, for it to be gone kind of like that, so quick, it’s kind of tough.”
But he might still have a Mr. Basketball title in him as well. He has committed to Gonzaga, but still has the door open to forego college and play overseas.
“That door is still open, but I’m letting my parents handle that,” Suggs said.
And then there’s Chet Holmgren, a 7 footer working to be an NBA product. He will be the next big thing next year for the school.
“The goal is just to be as unpredictable as possible,” Holmgren said.
Much of the attention started when he was a freshman, and intensified as college coaches saw an unmatched upside.
“I’ve never seen a kid skyrocket that much in terms of ratings,” Johnson said.
It’s all added to one era of basketball, state titles and a roadshow, but the season is still to be defined.
“Obviously that Sierra Canyon game in front of all those people at Target Center is something I’ll never forget, but I’d trade it in for another state championship in a second,” Johnson said.